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This article is not a collector's guide, simply an introduction to some of the train products that Dept.
The official story is that, in the mid-1970s, a half-dozen friends on a drive in New England stumbled across an old-fashioned snow-covered village and thought something like, "Wouldn't it be nice to capture that charm for other folks?" And in 1976, Department 56, did just that, with six ceramic buildings that caught holiday decorators' attention, revived Christmas villages, and started an industry. Soon folks across North America were setting up holiday village displays much like their grandparents did. One problem for folks trying to mix trains and collectible villages is that very few collectible village items are in the same scale as any of the other items, even from the same "collection." Mostly this is because rigidly adhering to scale, as, say, a modern model railroader would, would actually produce pieces that wouldn't look right together on the average shelf, mantel, or buffet.
So the designers bring the cathedral down in size by eliminating some bits and scaling down the rest. To summarize this discussion, there is no "right scale" of model train to use with any particular collectible village.
One other consideration might be that the original Snow Village(r) is shiny like a cookie jar, and a cutesey train that looks toylike might be more at home than a realistic model.
In addition, most of the collections represent 19th-century or older structures, so steam engines are preferable to Diesel.
Above all, if you have any comments on any of these trains, or corrections to our numbers and dates, or if you can provide us with photos or information on any OTHER Dept.
Haunted Rails Locomotive #800001 Introduced 2008, has an available dining car (#805677) accesory as well.
Station 50856Introduced 1980, retired 1985, was apparently sold with and without three ceramic train pieces. Brown Station, 50512 Introduced ???, retired 1986, came with a small locomotive and passenger car that seem inspired by "turn-of-the-last-century" British equipment, some of which was still in use as late as the 1950s.
Village Station #51225Introduced 1988, retired 1992, came with a small locomotive and passenger car. Chadbury Station #65285Introduced 1986, retired 1989, came with a small locomotive and passenger car. The boiler's shape, the funnel-shaped smokestack, and the colors indicate that the locomotive represents a mid-19th-century North American "American-style" locomotive, similar to the locomotive in the Bachmann-made #5980_3 below. Based on that, I was able to track down another "GATA playart" locomotive" that was imported under its own name. The power supply has a model # of 70210, which is the same as the model number of an AHM-brand power supply, although the brand name has been covered with a sticker that says Dept. One other interesting feature is that, although the locomotive and caboose are obviously inspired by North American prototypes, the coaches are based on Euro, or maybe even Asian prototypes. Bachmann is one of the world's largest model train manufacturers, and they have a long history of both providing good value and standing behind their products.
For this set, Bachmann simply repainted equipment it was already making in real railroad colors, such as Union Pacific and Northern Pacific. If you have one of these, you'll be glad to know that the Bachmann locomotive in this set has a lifetime warranty from Bachmann.
These trains came with an engine, tender (coal car), three coaches, an oval of Bachmann EZ-track and a power supply - everything you needed to set up a train with your town. Perhaps best of all, Bachmann provided a limited lifetime warranty on the locomotive, and you knew you could always buy more tracks, cars, or replacement parts.
Today, Bachmann makes similar sets, but the control system is a little more sophisticated, resulting in less wear and tear on the streetcar's motor. Recently, my friend, vintage-style house designer Howard Lamey, has acquired one to use on his displays and Christmas villages.
If you own and want to try to sell one of the trains on this page, your best bet is probably a die-hard Dept 56 collector.
To get some idea of value, you might try to find your train or a similar product on eBay, and watch for the final selling price.
Whenever I write this kind of article folks contact me and ask if I want to buy their trains. This section lists a few options for finding electric trains that should look good with most collectible villages. Hawthorne Village(r) On30 Train Collections - Hawthorne Village(r) Christmas train collections use the same Bachmann train chasis and frames that were used for the Dept.
Hawthorne Village train collections are "subscription" trains, which means that you get (and pay for) one piece at a time, beginning with the locomotive, which is always an outstanding value.
Because Hawthorne Village trains use reliable mechanisms and other parts from Bachmann On30 trains, they run like "champs," and service will always be available.

Coca Cola(r) Train - Inspired by classic Coca Cola(tm) advertising art of the early and mid-20th century.
O-Gauge (Lionel) Christmas Trains - For about a century, Lionel(tm) has been making O-gauge trains that run on three-rail track. IN 2007, at popular request, we added a page describing several of Lionel's best-selling non-Christmas trains. For details about Lionel O-gauge "non-Christmas" offerings, please click on the picture to the right. Lionel John Bull Passenger Set - If you want a train that is really authentic for an 1830s railroad, and you don't mind paying extra for a special item, consider the Lionel John Bull set. Honorable Mention: S-Gauge (American Flyer and American Models) Trains - These are made in such small numbers today that I don't have a link. About Nativities - From Family Christmas Online(tm) - describes how German-American Nativity displays grew into communities and landscapes that included pasteboard, glittered houses and even electric trains. Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D. Just for Christmas - Collectible Decorations and Gifts - Visit any of the links below to see quality collectible Christmas gifts and decorations that have been popular with our readers. Truck Driveline - Front (On30 Climax) [286XX-0AC06] - $13.65 : Bachmann Trains Online Store! Loco Shell (Denver & Rio Grande) (ON30 2-6-0) [252XX-S25201-7] - $42.00 : Bachmann Trains Online Store!
56 issued their first set of buildings in 1976, few people could have predicted their popularity. 56 has contracted with toy or model train manufacturers to produce working electric trains with the Dept. 56 did not invent the "Christmas Village." In fact, Christmas villages were widespread and known by many other names throughout North America between 1890 and 1965 ("putz," "Christmas garden," and "train garden" were a few of the names). It's worth mentioning that, while "Christmas village" and "Holiday village" are generic terms, "Dept. Some dug out their old Lionel sets and decided they looked too big, or took up too much room, or needed service.
The result is that you can still tell that it's a more "important" structure, but it gives the other pieces a chance to be seen and appreciated as well. But folks who remember the historical Christmas villages of the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s remember that scale was never a consideration in those days either. 56 trains and accessories is by no means comprehensive - these are just the ones we have become aware of since we started trying to gather information on this subject. This locomotive and tender structure matches the Rickety Railroad Station #31726 and the Haunted Rails Water Tower #810639 in color scheme and overall style. 56 stations that were issued with ceramic or porcelain trains, although at least one of these stations was offered both with and without trains. The train is the same mold but different colors as the train that came with Brown Station 50512 above.
If it helps you to get a sense of period, most of the locomotives used between 1855 and 1870 were very similar to this one in design. The track in this set is also compatible with Bachmann's most popular line of HO track, called EZ-track. 56 version, you should know that Bachmann now makes the same basic set in different colors, and that they also make about twenty different customized versions of this set for Hawthorne Village(r), including sets with paint jobs inspired by Thomas Kinkade and many others.
56 streetcar was a "bump and go," meaning that it would reverse direction by banging a switch that reversed the polarity of current going to the motor.
56 contracted with another supplier to provide an autoreversing set that featured a blue streetcar.
Readers are glad to find someone who knows something about the unwanted train they got for a Christmas present or whatever, and assume that I either want it for myself or know someone who wants it. But the Hawthorne Village designers add artwork and other detailing that make these trains much more attractive and collectable. The 2004 issue of this train was so popular that, when they sold out, Hawthorne Village(r) negotiated a new contract wtih Coca Cola(tm) to allow them to reissue this set. But I wanted to point out that American Flyer S gauge trains are about the size of Bachmann On30 trains, which makes them a good match in scale for your holiday village. Free downloadable commercial-grade graphics and instructions will help you inexpensively add an authentic vintage look to any indoor railroad or Christmas village.

Howard has also expanded into building his own tinplate trains and other vintage-style structures. All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Paul D.
Instead, the company has alternated between two strategies for fullfilling their customers' demand for trains. 56" and their trade names, including "Snow Village" are specific brand names and trademarks of the Dept.
56 to stay ahead of their competion in many ways by constantly increasing the quality and variety of their offerings. At the other end of the spectrum, a news stand that was a tenth the size of the cottage would disappear on the mantel. Often three-inch-high Japanese cardboard houses sat near 14-inch-tall Lionel Standard Gauge stations. Since I usually write about trains, I've taken the liberty of saying a little about the kinds and dates of the real-world trains that seem to have inspired the various Dept. 56 ceramic or porcelain train that you think should be here, please check out the station section below - several Dept. 56 version has had a diamond smokestack and an oil-burning headlight applied to make it look more old-fashioned. 56 partnered with Bachmann to offer this option, a true HO model of a mid-19th-century "American" locomotive and its coaches. To see the difference between a toy and a scale model, check out the locomotive in set # 65485 above - they're both inspired by the same basic type of locomotive.
The one "downside," if there was one, was that, as an HO model, it looked too small next to most Dept. 56 also worked with Bachmann trains to release an On30 streetcar that would go back and forth on a little zig-zag track that you could make fit just about anywhere. In spite of the fact that they are limited-edition, subscription trains, they are also an excellent value (and among our best sellers every Christmas season since 2004). But several other Kinkade-inspired trains and towns are available, including the "End of a Perfect Day" train and the "Lamplight Village" train and town. The down side is that most AF track makes a very wide circle, about 48", so you need a lot of room to run American Flyer trains.
Many folks have found parts of their own family histories in this fun history of an American phenomenon. Most projects have multiple pre-scaled plans and graphics, plus scalable graphics for the smaller scales, so you can easily add a vintage look to ANY railroad or holiday village, no matter what size your trains and towns are.
So they make the news stand larger in scale than the cottage, and it "holds its own" without appearing to be equally "important" with the cottage. At the same time, 5"-tall pot-metal figures from Lionel's early days mixed freely with 3"-tall 1930s "composite" figures from Europe or 2"-tall plastic reindeer from Woolworths.
56, they went to work in a scale that most hobbyists and manufacturers had overlooked for a long time: On30. They will also look nice with your Christmas village structures, if you have room for a track circle (about 40" minimum). In this article I am mostly paying attention to products merchandised under those names, although it is no secret that Dept. The coach is inspired by the many real closed-vestibule, celerestory-roofed observation cars of the early 1900s.
Lionel has produced quite a few Christmas cars over the years, so if you track one of these trains down, you might also get a non-Dept. So, if you can scrounge some of that up, you might be able to squeeze a Flyer railroad into a tighter spot.
That said, the overall look of the train could date almost back to the earliest days of steam in Britain. That said, if you don't have any AF in the family at this time, and you're looking for a train for your town, I'd start with Bachmann On30 or something based on the Bachmann On30 chassis, with Lionel being my second choice (or third, depending on how you count it).

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